Words BY Michael Dart
In an unassuming spot on Walker Street, across from the TAFE, you will find the Walker Street Arts Precinct. It’s a hidden arts gem and a hub for creative collaboration. For many it is a refuge. A retreat. A haven. The very definition of sanctuary for the artists who toil there. Anchored by The Hazzard Gallery and the Bundaberg Art Society, the precinct also incorporates the Bundaberg Woodworkers Guild and Bundaberg Pottery Group Association.
Founded in 1939, the Bundaberg Art Society (BAS) has served as a bedrock for the many successful artists to emerge from the Region in its 84 years, including original members and celebrated artists Charles and Sheena Hazzard.
BAS President Marilyn Batty, a gifted contemporary painter, ceramics and bronze artist, said it was artistic locals and members of BAS that created what is now the Council owned and operated Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG). They also established the original Bundaberg Arts Festival (a precursor to the current Bundaberg Art Prize) which at one point had almost 1000 entries across 29 sections. All this, of course, has created a strong foundation for hundreds of amazing local artists that have left their mark across the Region, Australia and intentionally.
“Art is very important in our area. We have a wide range of art groups and many clubs providing a wealth of knowledge in the form of classes and workshops to the wider community. This provides many a chance to grow their art form, meet like-minded people and provides many with a way of expressing themselves and being part of the community,” Marilyn said.
Media routinely on display at Hazzard Gallery include ceramics, oils, pastels, watercolours, acrylics, photos and linoprints – of local landscapes, the ‘ghostly gums’, seascapes, local landmarks, local identities and flora and fauna. BAS workshops, including life drawing, are held each month. Watercolour classes are held on Mondays and design workshops on Fridays.
Situated alongside BAS, members of Bundaberg Pottery Group (BPG) have been throwing, pinching and coiling pieces of clay for more than 50 years. The group was founded in 1969 and interest from the community has always been strong.
BPG President John Boulton said the group had grown so much recently that organisers were busy keeping up with the demand, and the gallery was booming. “Education in pottery is growing and there is a lot of interest,” he said.
The group has members with a great depth of talent, who create pottery pieces ranging from ornaments and homewares to artistic sculptures.
John said BPG’s classes taught pottery skills, from pinch pots at the start, to creating slab work and learning how to finish pottery off with glazing and firing, which is much more accessible now. “The secret is to have a go, enjoy what you do and have a passion for it,” he said.
BPG’s ‘Renewal’ first exhibition for 2023 will open to coincide with Easter. Inspired by new beginnings, it’s sure to be worth a visit.
At the same hub, the Bundaberg Woodworkers Guild (BWG) started in 1989 and has about 75 members. Their vast array of equipment is used to make new creations, as well as manufacture and restore furniture. Turning, scroll sawing and pyrography techniques are well advanced.
So, if you are interested in the arts but have not yet taken the plunge, the Bundaberg arts precinct on Walker Street is a welcoming and supportive way to start your arts immersion.
Michael Dart is an actor, director and member of Bundaberg’s Playhouse Theatre.
Walker Street Art Precinct
Bundaberg Art Society and Hazzard Gallery (open 9-12 Tues, Thurs, Sat)
Bundaberg Pottery Group Association (open 9-12 Thurs, Sat and Tues afternoon)
Bundaberg Woodworkers Guild (open 8:30-12 Tues, Wed, Sat)
Ellie Herd at the Bundaberg Arts Society. Darren Reid at the Bundaberg Woodworkers Guild